She studied the tiny, silver key, her vision becoming blurry as her mind was filled with flickering thoughts of him. Like the small cedar chest whose lock the key fit into, his memories were the key to unlocking her soul. She pictured him the day they’d met at college, the day she had really started living for the first time in all her 19 years. He was tall, broad shouldered, with chiseled masculine features, cerulean blue eyes, a ready smile, thick chestnut hair that barely touched the collar of his royal blue cable knit sweater. Long legs were clothed in faded blue jeans, and he was wearing black cowboy boots. He literally took her breath away.

She didn’t know what he saw in her. She wasn’t a great beauty with a perfect body. She was short, just over five foot tall, with blue green eyes hidden behind w ire-rimmed glasses. Her chest was too small and her waist a little more curvy than a woman he should have been attracted too. Her hair, next to her smile and her personality, was her best feature she felt. It was down to her waist, straight, and a rich strawberry blonde in color.

She wasn’t what most men were attracted to and readily accepted that fact, since she didn’t want anyone who liked her just for what she looked like on the outside. She certainly felt it was their loss, because she had a lot to offer a man in categories that were much more important than physical attributes.

Even so, she still thought he was out of her reach. Yet,  for some reason, he chose her. From the beginning she thought he would leave her, but he never did. They were like two peas in a pod, fit together like a warm pair of mittens, and it was only logical that their next step was to marry.

She sniffled as her mind shifted the pictures flowing in her head until they settled onto the picture of their wedding day. It was a warm spring day, the sun was shining, birds were singing, and they were dancing to Keith Urban’s “Making Memories of Us”. It was the most beautiful day of her life and she’d never wanted it to end.

Her tears were falling freely now and her chest was heaving with sobs as her mind switched over, yet again, and settled on the worse day of her life. The day the doorbell had rung and she had answered it to find military officials standing on the porch. One look at their solemn faces and she knew the love of her life, her soul mate was gone, and she was never going to see him again.

She had buried him on a gloomy, rainy day fitting for the gallons of tears that she herself was shedding…His personal belongings were returned to her and inside one of  the pockets of his fatigues, she found the tiny, silver key she was now looking at.

She’d known instantly what the key went to, but had no knowledge of the contents the chest held. She wiped a hand across her eyes, sniffled again, and then reached for the key with trembling fingers. She scooted forward to the edge of the sofa and inserted the key into the lock and turned it. She took a deep breath and reached to lift the lid with both hands.

A smile curved her lips despite the pain she was feeling, as she took in the neatly stacked pile of all the letters she’d sent him while he was overseas, tied with the pink ribbon he’d taken from her hair the first night they’d made love. There were ticket stubs for trips they’d taken or movies they’d seen. Programs for local theatre productions she’d dragged him to, photos she’d sent him, etc. There were also new things that she’d never seen before, sketches he’d done when she was sleeping or from his memory while he was away from her. She also found a few items that were left over from his childhood. A ragged stuffed dog, athletic awards, and a layout set or two.

She glanced down at her protruding stomach, rubbing a hand over it, thankful for the unborn child that rested safe and warm inside, and knew that it was the best memory of her husband, friend, and soulmate, that she could ever have. A living, breathing, smaller version of him to hold, love, and nurture forever.

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